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​LG's crazy VR headset has its own screens, plugs into phones with USB-C (hands-on)

A new way to wear virtual reality, lightweight and sunglass-style. Hands-on impressions.

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Scott Stein
Scott_Stein.jpg

Scott Stein

Editor at Large

I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets.

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3 min read

So far, mobile virtual reality has meant sticking your phone into a goggle-rig where it acts as the screen, right up against your eyes. That's how Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR work -- but that's not necessarily what the future will be like at all.

LG just debuted its entry in the suddenly red-hot VR space, the LG 360 VR, at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. These are dedicated virtual reality glasses designed to go with LG's newest G5 phone. But you don't put your phone into them. Instead, you plug them into the phone's USB-C jack.

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Little fold-up VR goggles with glasses-like frame design.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The advantages of not having your phone hanging off your face are immediately apparent. The 360 VR glasses are small: one-third the weight of similar high-end phone-based VR goggles like the Samsung Gear VR, according to LG (180 grams, or 6.3 ounces). The design is notably slimmer and funkier than Samsung's Gear VR design. They almost look like glasses without see-through lenses.

LG 360 VR headset looks almost like glasses (photos)

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Inside the LG 360 VR are dual 1080p OLED screens, both independently focus-adjustable. LG says it's like a "130-inch TV from 2 meters away," which isn't exactly an ideal metaphor for virtual reality.

The LG 360 VR only works with Android phones using a Snapdragon 820 processor. Right now, it's exclusively compatible with LG's G5 flagship phone and will debut alongside it sometime in April. (Pricing has yet to be announced.) But it uses USB-C to connect power and video, and as USB-C makes its way into other phones and tablets, LG's VR headset could end up being compatible with other hardware, too.

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USB-C cable plugs into the phone (LG G5)

Sarah Tew/CNET

Because LG 360 VR has its own displays, it's not dependent on phones being a certain size or having a certain screen resolution. The plug-into-the-phone design has another advantage: you can use your phone's display as a giant touchpad to control apps when you're deep in virtual realms. The 360 VR has two small buttons on the top, but no audio: you need to plug into your phone or use Bluetooth for that.

Lynn La, who tried the VR headset on for a brief 360-degree video of a roller-coaster ride, said "it was pretty immersive. There are control buttons up top that you can use to select things and go back, and it looks pretty sleek. I did feel I had to hold my phone the whole time because watching the videos kind of makes you jostle around. Since that wire is dangling, you want to hold your phone."

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Each eye gets its own screen.

Sarah Tew/CNET

A smaller, more glasses-like plug-in design makes these a little more like headphones for your eyes. They might be easier to carry and use in cramped spaces like airplanes. They seem to feel more spiritually connected to other headphone-meets-eyephone devices like the upcoming Avegant Glyph, which uses microHDMI instead of USB-C.

Google's next VR headset might not need a phone to be shoved into its goggles. Maybe its design is something like LG's 360 VR. As USB-C expands, the future of advanced plug-in accessories like these could become pretty interesting.

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